Q&A – Colin F Barnes

Writer, editor, master-of-all-tradsor, I am very excited to host an interview with the twisted brain behind that revolting, unpleasant (brilliant) City of Hell Chronicles anthology I so recently reviewed. But there’s much more to this man than horror — the witty, clever, and extremely talented, Colin F Barnes.

The “about the author” section on your website never fails to crack me up. It’s probably one of the best I’ve read. Anything else you want to share about yourself?

Thank you, Krista. I have to admit, I only wrote it in that manner because I couldn’t think of a ‘proper’ one. I do wonder if it gives the wrong impression to prospective publishers. But I suppose it sticks in the mind. As for anything else I want to share, I am but a slave to two cats. They force me to have a presence online so that my servitude to them isn’t noticed. Although I’ve kinda let the cat out of the bag now. It’ll be just a matter of time before they translate this and I’m punished. But beyond that, I’m a humble writer from England, struggling to make my mark in the world.

The flash fiction stories you post, Genesis, they all demonstrate a ridiculous talent for causing people to go screaming from the room. Hair on the back of the neck and all that. What is it about horror that interests you?

That’s very kind of you to say, thanks. Horror has always intrigued me from a really early age. Growing up, we didn’t have YA books. We had Janet & John books for kids and then Stephen King and James Herbert. From about the age of 10 or so I was reading horror novels, and sneakily staying up at night watching dark, scary films on my little 10″ black and white portable TV. I just find the ‘dark’ more interesting because of the questions it raises.

Why bugs? (See City of Hell review >:-|)

Because they are creepy and nasty, and probably the only thing that has colonised the planet better than we have. With City of Hell, I wanted an apocalypse that could happen (within a little creative license). If bugs grew to the size of humans or larger, we would be doomed. They are just so incredible in their ability to adapt and evolve. When I was doing research into potential creatures for City of Hell, I was surprised by their level of sophistication and efficiency. They would totally destroy/harvest/mutate with us.

You have your name as editor as much as an author – do you have a leaning about which role your prefer?

Writing is my first passion. Editing the projects was really just a way of writing a story and getting it out there. Instead of me writing a whole collection, I could write one story and create the world, and invite others into it. I do enjoy the editing side of it, but writing is first and foremost my true love (Although it’s run close by English Ale, and goth girls.) 🙂

You have two anthologies under your belt right now, and at least another two in the works. What is it about these collaborating projects that appeals to you?

I touched on it in the previous question. I think it comes down to my creation need. I like coming up with ideas, themes and worlds. I have so many that I cant possibly write the stories for them all, so by collaborating, Im able to work on my collections, and expand other ideas simultaneously. Also, I really enjoy working with other authors. In this day and age of the internet, it’s easier to find like minded people and share your love of fiction.

From horror to YA? Seems an extreme jump in genre – what inspired you to try it out?

When I was young, there was no such thing as YA as a marketable genre. Nowadays it’s one of the most popular, but also one with a very wide scope of what can be done. As much as I love horror, I’m a story teller, and the genre to me is just the wrapping. I write in most genres and love to explore stories in a wide variety of fields.

Any other projects in the works?

I’ve always got more than a few things going on. Day of Demons and City of Hell Chronicles: Volume 2 are coming to a close on submissions, so they’ll be out in a few month’s time. I’m writing a YA novel currently, and also putting the final touches on a collection of stories about a witch with borderline psychopathic tendencies (Ursa Incantrix). I’ve another long-ish short story due for release at the end of Feb. Finally, I’ll be starting work on the first standalone City of Hell novel (working title of Frostblood) in around May. Beyond that, there will be a third City of Hell anthology before the end of the year, and probably a weird/horror collection or two.

Maybe a horror writer’s mind works different – what are your writer must-haves to get the words down?

A clean desk, a moleskin bulging with notes and a basic outline, and the loss of an Internet connection. Some fine Ale helps, as does bacon. And a concrete inescapable deadline really helps too.

I know you involve yourself in a variety of genres, but since horror is fairly new to me, do you have any advice about the genre? Things to watch out for, to avoid, etc?

I don’t think there is too much to avoid or watch out for. Horror is quite a trope laden genre, but even so, it’s possible to write a cracking story using a worn trope, it’s all in the execution. I think like all good literature, your aim is to draw the reader into the story as deep as possible. You want to transport the reader into the head of the character and create that dream like trance where they become sensitive to suggestion. Also, it has to have logic so as not to break this spell. It doesn’t have to be the logic of our physical world, but an internal logic that is consistent within the parameters of the story. Once you have achieved that, you can then think about how to deliver the creeping dread. For me, the best stories do it slowly. Drip dripping the unease a bit at a time. Don’t be in a rush to expose the monster or the source of the horror, but leave plenty of clues to keep us on the edge of our seats wondering what it could be. The power of our imagination is infinitely more terrifying than reading a description.

Colin’s website: www.colinfbarnes.com
City of Hell website: www.cityofhellchronicles.com



  1. Great interview Krista and Colin. You opened him up like a stomach of fetid maggots… The acrid stench of his horrific responses now coats the back of my throat, and I find myself unable to consume my lunch; instead I am consumed by sycophantic admiration for his output and imagination.The world is a more chilling place with you in it Mr Barnes…

  2. Posted on behalf of someone my blog hates: Excellent interview. 🙂 The bug thing, though, that really freaks me out. I'm not normally afraid of bugs — not ones I know I can squish. If I can't, well, I'd rather face zombies.


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